Letter #1 – Can We Afford These Maids?
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
I spent Pesach in what would appear to be idyllic surroundings. We stayed at a beautiful hotel, where we were served sumptuous meals and were entertained every evening of Chol Hamoed. Even the weather conformed. Our rooms were perfectly and strategically located overlooking a spacious garden and in close proximity to the dining room. As such, I had ample opportunities to observe the children who played in this garden.
During Yom Tov, I attended various stimulating lectures. Each of the speakers reminded us that it was incumbent upon us to feel that we ourselves were being liberated from Egypt. They each discussed the difficulties of doing so. There was one segment of the population who easily would have understood this concept – the children…. the ones left day after day in the hands of illiterate, inappropriately dressed maids who ignored them.
I watched the maids talking to each other in Spanish, impatiently turning to the children whenever it was necessary to say, “Yes, Yes, Yes” or “No, No, No,” the only English words they seem to have mastered. I watched parents walking by oblivious to their children’s cries. I heard children cry out “Mommy, mommy” and in response the “Mommy” would instruct the maid to “get him/her something to eat so he/she stops complaining.”
So, to those parents who have freed themselves from the constraints of their children, I want to say that there is a steep price to pay for the luxury of hired help. Your children are paying this price every day. Is it the Torah way to subject your precious children to mediocrity – quite literally enslaving them to the whims of an uneducated, unrefined hired hand?
Whether this description fits you or your daughter, your son, your niece or your nephew, we are all culpable. We are neglecting and therefore destroying our future. The question is, can we really afford the price of these maids?
Letter #2 – Dumping On Parents
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
I have been reading your articles from the time that I was a little girl, as does everyone else in our family. As a matter of fact, your column is always the topic of discussion at our Shabbos table. I never thought that I would write to you with the specific request that my letter be published in your column. The reason why I am making this request rather than asking you to respond privately is because I am hoping that the parties involved who read your column will get the message.
Before I write about my concerns, I would like to make a disclaimer. I have hakoras hatov, appreciation, for the many brachas (blessings) of a family spending Yom Tov together. Baruch HaShem, we are a large family with seven siblings – all married except for me, the youngest. My sister, who lives in Eretz Yisrael, is expecting her fifth child, and is having a difficult pregnancy. My brother has four children and lives in Lakewood. Both these families came to our parents’ home for Pesach. I also had the privilege of coming home this year, since I am currently studying in Seminary in Yerushalayim.
My other siblings went to their in-laws’. My parents are no longer young, so making Pesach for such a large group was not an easy task. Nevertheless, my mother insisted that my sister and brother and their families come, assuring them that it was her pleasure and joy to have them (which I am sure it was) but still, the work took its toll on her.
I don’t have to tell you what Pesach preparations entail. On top of that, serving Yom Tov meals to all those people would tax the energy of even a younger person. Before one meal was finished, preparations had to be made for the next. My mother literally never got out of the kitchen, and when she did, it was to clean the mess that my nieces and nephews left in every room, although she couldn’t quite keep up with the matzoh crumbs all over the floor. Additionally, the sounds of children playing, fighting, and running around was not easy on the nerves.
My father, who is not well and needs his nap, did not have a moment of peace. Everything in the house was in disarray, and by the end of the Yom Tov, my mother looked like she was on the verge of collapse. My siblings acted as if our home was a hotel, with baby-sitting, meals, and maid service.
I understand that they are exhausted and that they work very hard throughout the year. They don’t have much money, so they don’t have help at home and they look upon Pesach as their vacation – their yetzias Mitzraim – their liberation from their chores and responsibilities.
I am certain that you are wondering why I didn’t help my mother out. Well, I would have loved to were it not for the fact that my sister-in-law decided to visit old friends whom she hasn’t seen in a long time. She left her children in my charge…. so I was busy baby-sitting. Her lack of consideration really annoyed me. It never occurred to her that I might also want to see my old friends, and that it might be more important for me to socialize since I am in the shidduch parasha. I wanted to say something to her but I didn’t want to cause friction in the family and upset my parents. Besides, I was so angry that had I told her what was in my heart, I probably would have ended up with a major fight and said something that I would have come to regret.
But now that Yom Tov is over and I am back in Seminary, I have taken it upon myself to write to you because I realized that something has to be said… that if things are left unchecked, the consequences can be terrible. I also realize that neither my sister nor my sister-in-law would take kindly to my mussar admonitions. I spoke to many girls at my school who had similar experiences, so I really think that this problem should be addressed.
I can see why children should come home for Pesach, but not if they are going to burden their families. I hope that when I get married, I will not fall into that trap.
Please accept my deepest feelings of respect and best wishes for your continued success in your Avodat HaKodesh.
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis